How do you solve a problem like sharia?
August 15, 2005 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Breakin' the law makin' the law. The Iraqi government has defied Donald Rumsfeld and given itself an additional week to iron out little details like the basic form of government, the role of Islam, and the name of the county. The only problem is, the extension is unconstitutional. Under Article 61F of the interim constitution, the extension had to have been requested "no later than 1 August 2005." [more inside]
posted by kirkaracha (44 comments total)
Here are the relevant sections of Article 61:
(E) If the referendum rejects the draft permanent constitution, the National Assembly shall be dissolved. Elections for a new National Assembly shall be held no later than 15 December 2005. The new National Assembly and new Iraqi Transitional Government shall then assume office no later than 31 December 2005, and shall continue to operate under this Law, except that the final deadlines for preparing a new draft may be changed to make it possible to draft a permanent constitution within a period not to exceed one year. The new National Assembly shall be entrusted with writing another draft permanent constitution.

(F) If necessary, the president of the National Assembly, with the agreement of a majority of the members' votes, may certify to the Presidency Council no later than 1 August 2005 that there is a need for additional time to complete the writing of the draft constitution. The Presidency Council shall then extend the deadline for writing the draft constitution for only six months. This deadline may not be extended again.

(G) If the National Assembly does not complete writing the draft permanent constitution by 15 August 2005 and does not request extension of the deadline in Article 61(F) above, the provisions of Article 61(E), above, shall be applied.
Since they didn't request a deadline by August 1 and didn't finish the draft constitution by August 15, they should have dissolved the government and scheduled new elections. No problemo, though, because they worked a little ex post facto magic and amended the interim constition after the deadline had passed.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:28 PM on August 15, 2005

So what?
posted by smackfu at 5:32 PM on August 15, 2005

well smackfu, what that means is that any constitution they come up with now will always be challengable on the grounds that it was formed illegally. this makes for a very weak start for Iraq's government.
posted by Bengston at 5:34 PM on August 15, 2005

Let's invade!
posted by billysumday at 5:35 PM on August 15, 2005

The negotiations were stalled on a number of issues, including the role of Islam in the state, the rights of women and the distribution of power between central and regional governments. Issues that had seemed to have been settled, like the sharing of oil revenue, also unraveled. - NY Times 8/15/05

Gee, it seems like they could iron out those minor issues in a week.
posted by birdherder at 5:39 PM on August 15, 2005

"Now's the time to get on with it," Rumsfeld told the travelling press as he flew in from Tajikistan for talks with Iraqi leaders and US commanders. Any delay "would be very harmful to the momentum that is necessary."

Yep, they should just bowl ahead and approve whatever they've got so far. Minor details like the role of Islam in the government and autonomy for the republics be damned. Rummy wants his gold star, durn it.

Good for them.
posted by bloomicy at 5:39 PM on August 15, 2005

great start... I think it is amusing that they think these minor things can be fixed in a week
posted by edgeways at 5:40 PM on August 15, 2005

Are you guys nuts? Remember how well the first elections went over in the states?!? They'll love it more the second time around. More elections = more democracy.
posted by absalom at 5:45 PM on August 15, 2005

Far too much delay, incapable of negotiating a proper compromise for the good of the nation, willing to ignore constitutional law when it's convenient, creating an entire government on shaky legal ground which a large portion of the nation is certain to protest and resent...

What nation are we talking about again?
posted by Saydur at 5:45 PM on August 15, 2005

was oil mentioned ?
posted by Substrata at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2005

sharing of oil revenue, also unraveled.
there you go.
posted by Iax at 6:08 PM on August 15, 2005

thank you
posted by Substrata at 6:24 PM on August 15, 2005

Heh. Maybe they should start out with articles of confederation first, then forget to allow themselves the ability to regulate interstate commerce, then come back in a couple of years to try it again.
posted by klangklangston at 6:26 PM on August 15, 2005

well smackfu, what that means is that any constitution they come up with now will always be challengable on the grounds that it was formed illegally.

The post says they amended the constitution to get around the deadline. That may not be a great precedent, but as long as the amendment was legal, that means the process was legal. It would only be illegal if they ignored the deadline and didn't amend it.
posted by smackfu at 6:27 PM on August 15, 2005

Guess this proves that the US is controlling the puppet government they've installed and that it's a joke to think that the Iraqis are free to do as they please when it comes to governing themselves...

...or does it?
posted by loquax at 6:29 PM on August 15, 2005

Rumsfeld's probably just happy to be able to point a finger at someone else.
posted by clevershark at 6:48 PM on August 15, 2005

Donald Rumsfeld has made his law now lets see him enforce it.
posted by Rubbstone at 6:58 PM on August 15, 2005

Gee, you'd almost think that a constitution couldn't be whipped up like a recipe for rhubarb pie, as if it actually took toil and sweat and soulsearching to define what is most important, not just intuitively but structurally, to a nation.
posted by dreamsign at 7:03 PM on August 15, 2005

Well, they're a satellite state of our Bismarkian foreign policy, so it would make sense that they would take a Bismarkian approach to their constitution (the passage of the military spending bill in 1866 that authorized the previous four years of military spending, which had been continued unconstitutionally).
posted by klangklangston at 7:03 PM on August 15, 2005

on one hand, i find it heartening that the officials weren't willing to accept the plan that the U.S. apparently floated of a constitution where the "holes would be filled in later." i think that bodes well.

however, bush issuing happy prognostications about how this proves the process is working b/c there's negotiation happening is also disingenuous. if the process was working, there wouldn't be a delay. the fact that someone pulled up at clusterfuck without boring full-on into FUBAR isn't necessarily encouraging.

but i guess i'll take what i can get.
posted by spiderwire at 7:11 PM on August 15, 2005

I hope the Iraqi's all the luck they can handle with this new constitution, and if they reword things away from American favor, that just means that maybe, just maybe, this whole thing isn't being totally scripted by the US.

But if you are gonna make a deadline, meet it.
Didn't the CPA make some rules that couldn't be undone by the new govt?
It looks like they can't get a handle on the big problems, buch less the little nuances.
posted by Balisong at 7:25 PM on August 15, 2005

Excellent title!

(although I am that guy who thinks he must be the first to come up with that lame joke you've heard a million times)
posted by themadjuggler at 7:28 PM on August 15, 2005

spiderwire writes "on one hand, i find it heartening that the officials weren't willing to accept the plan that the U.S. apparently floated of a constitution where the 'holes would be filled in later.'"

Well, they have to live every single day with being reminded of what that approach did for the occupation.
posted by clevershark at 7:48 PM on August 15, 2005

Rumsfeld's probably just happy to be able to point a finger at someone else.

Rumsfeld to Iraq: "Clean Up My Debacle" -- Rummy shifting the blame.
posted by ericb at 7:50 PM on August 15, 2005

Oops ... here's a registration free link to the NYT's article regarding Rummy shifting the blame.
posted by ericb at 7:53 PM on August 15, 2005

Rumsfeld's probably just happy to be able to point a finger at someone else.

But it's a purple finger, so everything's just fine.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:00 PM on August 15, 2005

"they're a satellite state of our Bismarkian foreign policy"...And that's going to work out about as well as our Vietnamese expedetion did.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:01 PM on August 15, 2005

Article 3(A) says that the TAL can't be amended to delay the "holding of elections to a new assembly." The provisions of Article 61(E) state that the assembly should be dissolved and new elections held. It would seem that the extension of the deadline for the drafting of a constitution is invalid under the TAL. So much for democracy and the rule of law.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 9:07 PM on August 15, 2005

This was never about democracy or the rule of law.

These can join the mound of untruthitude justifications.
posted by Balisong at 9:50 PM on August 15, 2005

In the overall scheme of things, extending it a week really isn't that big a deal... is anyone really likely to flip about about 7 days? I mean, yeah, it might not be quite 'legal', but it's a pretty minor illegality.

Now, if they extend it a SECOND time, I think that would bring the whole constitutional process into very serious question... but a one-off, seven-day extension doesn't seem that awful.
posted by Malor at 9:56 PM on August 15, 2005

Having set the precedent of wantonly disregarding the constitution, this should make the details of the new one less relevant and thus easier to agree on, no?


On a more serious note, this is awful. The people of Iraq have a constitutional right to a government that will produce a constitution in a timely manner, not one that will produce a constitution when the mood strikes it. The clear intent of Article 61 (with or without the context of Article 3) is that if this crew is unwilling or unable to write a constitution, then the Iraqi people are to throw out the bums and elect a new government that takes its responsibilities more seriously. This last-minute amend-and-extend isn't just a technical violation of the letter of the law; it is a self-serving power grab by the current parliament.


Malor, I couldn't disagree more. This government has already proven itself incapable of fulfilling its constitutional duties, and I don't see how denying the people an election compensates for that.
posted by Ptrin at 10:33 PM on August 15, 2005

The problem isn't that there had to be an extension. I think that holding elections for a new constitutional assembly would be a very bad idea.

The problem is that there was a process for extending the time limit, and we ignored it because extending the deadline at the beginning of August would have resulted in bad publicity.

The administration has transformed the Iraqi constitutional process into a game of Calvinball. This didn't have to happen. They should have bit the bullet before Aug. 1. Their failure to do so shows just how much they care about the rule of law.

Decisions should have consequences. Skipping the Aug. 1 deadline and failing to produce a draft should have meant that there would be new elections. Changing the rules now will forever tarnish whatever document is produced.

We can't seem to beat back the insurgency militarily or politically. I don't know much about the military side of things, but the political blunders seem to be the result of the war being managed for domestic consumption. When decisions are made based on Bush's poll numbers instead of what is best for the Iraqi people I don't know whether to be sad or angry.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 10:55 PM on August 15, 2005

It's a week. Christ, it's not the end of the world, or of the constitution, or of really much of anything. They got a 75% majority in the government to pass the extension, which isn't easy.

Laws have both letter and spirit, and if they can get their acts together by the 22nd and get a constitution submitted, then I think the spirit of the original law was upheld. I'd look very dimly, however, on a second extension.

Even if this assembly fails to pass a constitution, that's not entirely bad. A new round of elections might get the Sunnis more involved. It might actually be better if they had to run another election and deliberate another six months. With more Sunnis in the government, I'd think they'd have a better chance of hammering out something that most Iraqis can live with.
Sometimes it just takes time for everyone to adjust to new ideas and realize 'hey, we guess they aren't THAT bad, we can live with them'. In six or eight months, they may accept terms that would bring out the heavy weapons if passed right this moment.

Whether we have the willpower as a country to see it through to that point, however, is questionable. Another eight or so months of occupation would cost us, what, 150 billion dollars? So I do rather wonder if this process will be 'allowed' to fail, even though that might be the best possible outcome.

That said, hopefully they can nail it together in a week. And, in the larger scheme of things, a week's slop to potentially save 150 billion dollars is probably an acceptable compromise, don't you think?
posted by Malor at 11:22 PM on August 15, 2005

Except it will still be that 150 billion dollars of "investment" spent either way. I still stand by my prediction that this will cost the US Trillions before we are done with that place.

Any notion that we 'won't spend 150 billion' if such and so happens is farce.
posted by Balisong at 11:31 PM on August 15, 2005

Malor - This is not a bunch of 8-year-olds playing biddy basketball. What happens when the assembly votes for another extension? What if they decide to vote to scrap the TAL altogether? What if they vote to tell us to leave? Your argument gives them the power to do whatever they want.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 12:06 AM on August 16, 2005

sp, as I said, I'd look very, very dimly at another extension. But neither life nor politics are perfect. This is ONE WEEK, and some of you people are going off like they declared war on babies or something. Chill out. Cripes.

FWIW, I don't think we should allow another extension, but should instead hold them to the original terms, and start from scratch. Whether Bush would be willing to weather the public opinion storm and do the right thing, however, is questionable.

Bali, it's gonna take X amount of time to finish and get out. If we sutract 8 months from X, that will save us about 150 billion, right? (my math could be wrong, I haven't looked up cost versus duration for awhile now.) Many tens of billions, at least. If allowing a week slop now gets us out 8 months sooner, then that's money we don't have to spend.

Overall, I was vehemently opposed to the invasion before we started, and I remain appalled at how incompetently the occupation has been handled. And I agree that it's probably going to cost many hundreds of billions more. But letting them slop a week gives us a good chance of accelerating the self-government process. If that lets us go home sooner, that saves us money.
posted by Malor at 3:13 AM on August 16, 2005

Oh, it may also save lives... since we'd be saving time at the tail of the occupation, when it's less dangerous, it may not be that many... but anything above zero is a win.
posted by Malor at 3:14 AM on August 16, 2005

Your argument gives them the power to do whatever they want.

I thought that was the whole point of this war ... to liberate the Iraqis so they could run their own country in their own way.
posted by Orb at 3:28 AM on August 16, 2005

I'm confused, and not for the first time: Why does the US, and Rumsfeld in particular, have a say in this matter? Does the word sovereign mean something to Bush and Rice that they haven't shared with us and the Iraqis?
posted by rob511 at 3:40 AM on August 16, 2005

Malor - It is not killling babies, but it is also not democracy under the rule of law. I don't see any legal justification for one time do-overs.

Orb - Democracy is not doing whatever you want. It is government of the people by the people. This assembly was elected under the TAL. They have now violated that agreement and exceeded the powers given to them by the Iraqi people in the previous election.

The saddest part of this whole thing is that the press dropped the ball at the Aug. 1 deadline and now they have dropped it again. Not a word of how things were actually supposed to happen under the TAL. This ain't rocket science.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 6:47 AM on August 16, 2005

Something else to keep in mind is that constitutions very rarely (if we're honest) dictate the way a country will be run. Take a look at Mexico's constitution: it's one of the best in the world at protecting the rights of citizens, ensuring functional checks and balances, spelling out the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and providing for the public good (especially article 19, the land redistribution clause). If Mexico was run according to the constitution of Mexico, it'd be a well-developed liberal state on par with the Scandinavians in terms of social democracy.
The solution? The PRI simply ignored the constitution for a huge number of decisions and killed people who brought that up.
In Afghanistan, there's a fairly solid constitution that has very little chance of being implimented fully (at least in my lifetime), because it was written by people in Kabul to reflect the government they wanted, rather than by the people (who would have endorsed a much more regressive and internationally unpalatable constitution). But the fact that it's already tacitly understood that the constitution's authority is drastically limited by its enforciblity means that there's less incentive for the government to play by the rules it set up for itself. And since the "revolution" that set it up wasn't internal, but rather was brought by an external invasion, there's less of a domestic feeling of accountability.
Iraq is likely to be similar. Look for another intervention in Iraq in 20 years, after they have a constitutional crisis and oil is REALLY scarce.
posted by klangklangston at 7:21 AM on August 16, 2005

The evolutionary sequence for democratic republics is something like 1) establish a legal system that recognizes basic rights (this is a problem with sharia) and allows the equitable enforcement of agreements; 2) assume sovereign powers (usually as the result of ending a conflict); 3) reorganize the legal basis of the state (usually through a constitutional process) as needed to deal with the tensions and contradictions which arise.

The US is attempting to impose a government in a very different order: reorganize the legal basis, establish a legal system, assume sovereign powers. Little wonder that it isn't working. This problem will be resolved historically (with all the untidyness), not politically as some sort of legislative process by a body without either political coherence or popular legitimacy.
posted by warbaby at 7:49 AM on August 16, 2005

Those making a big deal about this one week delay need to realize they're coming across a bit hysterical.
posted by smackfu at 8:55 AM on August 16, 2005

It wouldn't surprize me if the US decided to hold off on elections (06,08) in the US untill Iraq is more stable. After all, this is a very delicate process that needs to take it's time.

No, you're being hysterical.
posted by Balisong at 9:19 AM on August 16, 2005

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